Other than Jay-Z, Eminem is the only 90s rapper who’s still making a major impact on the scene, and that’s a huge accomplishment. With his new album that is titled as a sequel to one of his first, The Marshall Mathers LP 2, the rapper looks at his past for one of his most self-aware sets ever.
“Bad Guy” revisits the concept of his hit “Stan”. The rapper is kidnapped and killed by the brother of “Stan” in a sprawling 7-minute epic that has Eminem introspectively looking at all the people that he’s wrong. That’s even a daunting sentence to read, let alone listening to the opus. So yeah, Eminem doesn’t exactly open the album on a happy, accessible note. Thank goodness, after putting his audience on edge with the first track, he goes with one of his most commercial tracks ever with “Rhyme Or Reason”, which features the blatant sample of “Time Of The Season” by The Zombies. He’s also blazingly alive on “So Far…”, which samples Joe Walsh‘s 1978 classic rock track “Life’s Been Good” (and a small snipped of “The Real Slim Shady”). It’s possibly the most blatantly fun a Eminem track has ever been.
Other than that, things settle down to a more typical flow. “So Much Better” is a kiss-off to a girl, and “Survival” sounds like “Won’t Back Down” (a track from his last album featuring Pink), and he calls on Rihanna again for “The Monster” (after their monster hit “Love The Way You Lie”). While it’s not as good as that Record Of The Year nominee, it’s a serviceable track that will get the rapper back on the pop charts. Producers Rick Rubin and Dr. Dre do a great job of giving Em varied, energetic beats to rap over, and the rapper brings a energetic, self-reflective tone to most of the songs, but there’s nothing on here to get too excited about.
The bar has changed a lot since he broke through in 1999. Emotion and innovation have become the way to stand out in the rap field, and Slim Shady doesn’t exactly do either of those well. Oh, and by the way, he’s still as homophobic and sexist as ever. Eminem isn’t as revolutionary or clever as Kanye or emotional as Drake, but the 41-year-old Eminem continues to prove his ability to rap. And boy, can he ever, especially on tracks like “A**hole”, “Rap God”, and “Berserk”. On the other side of the coin, who told Eminem he could sing? He can’t. Just listen to the cringeworthy “Stronger Than I was” and you’ll agree.
This isn’t a revolutionary album for the artist or the genre, but shows that Eminem still has the skills to be heard.